Literary Orphans

Lincoln’s Second Inauguration by William Miller


In this grainy photograph,

he stands at the podium,

bent, exhausted, thin as the rails

he once split.


Though the war is almost

over, he still has to die,

the last, the most important



Depression has carved

a map of sorrow on his face:

lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet.

He’s at least a thousand


years old. The crowd throws

hats into the air, not caring about

the price he’s paid,

drunk on bourbon, victory.


Behind his left shoulder,

the most famous actor in America

smiles as if he alone understood

the meaning of his words,


not swords but ploughshares,

not malice towards his killer,

should there be one,

all those bitter restless men.


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William Miller’s seventh collection of poetry, “The Crow Flew Between Us,” is forthcoming from Aldrich Books in Spring 2019.  His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Penn Review, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner and West Branch.  He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

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–Art by Jaime Ryan